As the national economy gradually re-opens, many employers have vowed to continue offering remote working opportunities to staff that do not need to be in the office to complete their tasks. After scrambling to create workable solutions for at-home work during the first days of the crisis, businesses recognize that many employees not only enjoy working from home, but that some are also more productive.
However, this was not always the case. The initial concerns over managing financial, client, contractual and other types of data took on new urgency as the pandemic took hold in the United States. But the truth is that a high percentage of organizations across all industries were left unprepared to effectively manage data utilizing a remote workforce. Too many still rely on paper-based documents, records and contracts, which can cause a wide range of headaches. Those that did have an effective process of “online” records management in place likely had much fewer issues making the transition to remote work.
The bottom line is that what was true in March 2020 when COVID-19 began to shut down the U.S. economy remains true now. Most companies require digital records to be productive and efficient. Organizations that rely on paper-based systems will find it increasingly difficult to compete.
Although data management technology was increasingly becoming common for businesses, the pandemic accelerated this trend in three key areas: Cloud-based document management, digital forms and automated accounts payable.
Cloud-Based Document Management
Companies with cloud-based document management in place didn’t suffer the same problems when shifting employees to remote working environments. These organizations were simply able to access their data through the cloud from the comforts of home, provided they had a reliable internet connection. Employees remained efficient, and document creation and collaboration continued unabated.
For example, Cooperative Education Services is an educational procurement agency in New Mexico that manages mountains of paperwork to procure services for its members. They completed a shift to a cloud-based document management before the pandemic, allowing them to conduct business remotely, even as schools went online and still needed resources to support educational goals.
In a post-pandemic world with even more online and remote interactions, a reliance on paper forms will not just be difficult, but often impossible as state and local restrictions limit physical contacts. Virtually overnight what was a shifting preference of consumers, partners and vendors to working with digital forms became a necessity.
Real Property Management Vancouver moved its business processes to a cloud-based document management platform with e-forms long before the pandemic. These online forms allow for the efficient collection of information for property contracts. Important documents can be seamlessly e-signed and sent within seconds. Without this ability, Real Property Management Vancouver would not have been able to meet the needs of its stakeholders during a time of stress and uncertainty in the rental market.
Automated Accounts Payable (AP) Processes in the Cloud
The traditional model of an accounts payable team is to work together in a single physical location. Yet, the vast majority of work an AP team is responsible for can be completed from anywhere. Additionally, organizations can actually save money by automating AP processes. The Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM) has estimated it costs an average of $11.76 to process a single invoice, and 70-80% of invoices in the United States are still paper based. Those that switch from paper to digital invoices save $5.46 per invoice.
There are clear financial and operational benefits of an “AP in the Cloud” model. As the No. 1 specialty tea company in the United States, R.C. Bigelow has several suppliers it works with to manufacture and ship its drinks around the world. After the company automated its AP processes, Nucleus Research, an independent analyst organization specializing in the financial return on technology investments, calculated the return on investment for R.C. Bigelow to be a whopping 813%.
Digitizing AP files in a dynamic cloud environment is essential to enable finance professionals to securely work anywhere. In an evolving world, maintaining secure remote access to corporate documents, forms and financials is a necessity for growing organizations.
We were reminded from this pandemic that cloud-based document management, digital forms and managing accounts payable in the cloud are more than a trend or a fad. Each is an essential benefit to business that draws a line between the ability to effectively manage data and documents and failing to meet internal and external needs.